Congress’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi has told her aides that she would step down from the party’s top post, sources said, after a letter signed by more than 20 leaders seeking “full-time, visible” leadership, became public. The letter — which called for a range of reforms, including picking of leaders at every level through election — is also expected to be discussed at a key internal meeting tomorrow. Top sources said Mrs Gandhi can stay on till the party finds a suitable candidate. A section of top leaders, like Amarinder and Bhupesh Baghel, have said she must continue as the party chief.
Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:
- The letter called for a “full-time”, “effective leadership” that will be “visible” and “active” in the field, sources said. The signatories, however, made it clear there is no criticism of Rahul Gandhi. “We have not criticised Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, but we want a complete overhaul of the Congress party in its management and style,” one of them told NDTV. The letter praised Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and said they will remain an integral part of the “collective leadership”.
- The letter also called for an “honest introspection”, suggested a “collective leadership”, and stressed that the “youth are losing confidence” in the party. The list of suggested reforms includes decentralisation of power, empowerment of state units and organizational elections at every level, sources said.
- The letter, dated August 7, called for elections to pick the members of the Working Committee – the highest decision-making body of the party. The process of election, which was the norm earlier, has recently been replaced by nomination from the party chief.
- Over the last weeks, there has been a push from various senior leaders of the party including Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, for reforms.
- This morning, Mr Tharoor tweeted a quote by Jawaharlal Nehru that read, “Without passion and urge, there is a gradual oozing out of hope and vitality, a settling down on lower levels of existence, a slow merging into non-existence. We have become prisoners of the past and some part of its immobility sticks to us”.
- Senior Congress leader Sanjay Jha was suspended after his very public takedown of the party in a newspaper article over the revolt of senior leader Sachin Pilot, which plunged the Congress government in Rajasthan into crisis. .
- On Monday, the Congress had rubbished a tweet by Mr Jha that said around 100 Congress leaders have written to Sonia Gandhi asking for a change in the political leadership.
- Last year, Sonia Gandhi — who had taken a backseat following health issues — had to take up the reins of the party after Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the party chief’s post after its rout in the Lok Sabha elections. But a year down the line, the leadership issue had not been sorted. Mrs Gandhi, 73, however, has made it clear that she does not want to continue in view of her health.
- There is a strong chorus within the party to bring back Rahul Gandhi, sources said. A small group within the party is however critical, and argue that Rahul Gandhi and his team lack political experience, which has made him a non-performing asset electorally.
- The working committee meeting last month saw arguments and sharp criticism by younger leaders who were seen to blame the party’s last government for its massive downfall since. The younger leaders reportedly said those who were part of the last UPA government should take the blame for the Congress’s rapid decline.